The Seiko Prospex Urban Safari Gives The Classic ‘Tuna’ A New Street Look
In 1968, an aquanaut from Japan's Kure City sent a missive to the Seiko Watch Corporation. Saturation divers working at 350m or deeper, he explained, were being let down by the company: there were no watches on offer that could handle those kinds of conditions. Helium particles would seep in and as the diver surfaced the gas would expand, causing the crystal to break. At the time, competitors such as Rolex and Doxa were addressing this issue by building helium release valves into their watches. Seiko's engineers decided that they too should tackle the problem, but they took a different tack: what if they could prevent the helium from entering the watch in the first place?
The result was 1975's Professional Diver’s 600m. It had a double-layered titanium case to keep helium out, plus a number of other useful features such as a rubber strap that automatically tightened to fit the reduced thickness of a diver's wetsuit under pressure. But the quality for which the watch is best remembered is simply its look. At 51mm in diameter, it was a big watch encased in a chunky protective shroud. It garnered an affection nickname, the “Tuna”, because it resembled a tuna can.
The new Seiko SRPE29
This watch has been part of the Seiko range in various guises ever since. Now, it has been ushered into the Seiko Prospex Street Series, which debuted in 2018 to offer city-oriented versions of Seiko's classic dive watches. The four new watches all come in savanna colours. Two of the models, the SRPE29 and SRPE31 (both £510), riff directly on the Tuna's design. Containing a six-beats-per-second 4R36 caliber, they are a more compact 43.2mm across and fit for dives of up to 200m. The other two, the SNJ029 and SNJ031 (both £460), are based on the “Arnie” Tuna variant – the one worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando (1985) and Predator (1987) – and offer a Solar Chronograph Caliber H851 in a slightly larger 47.8mm package.
The new Seiko SNJ031
All this thanks to a single letter.